Physics Researchers Patent Unique Barrel Design for Navy's Rail Gun
By MC2 Brian H. Abel
NPS electronics technician Gene Morris assists students and faculty with their research projects in the university's Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and his efforts have earned him a place on a new patent awarded to several researchers for a unique barrel design for the Navy's developmental rail gun weapons system.
Morris, along with former NPS faculty and students William Maier II, Dr. Eugene Nolting, Donald Snyder and Cmdr. George Caramico, were awarded a patent for their project, "Electromagnetic Device and Method to Accelerate Solid Metal Slugs to High Speeds."
Rail guns use electricity, instead of chemical propellants, to propel projectiles at extremely high velocities. NPS researchers took a unique approach toward their design for the barrel of the electromagnetic projectile launcher.
"There's huge electromagnetic forces exerted on these rail gun rails and we felt a round barrel would be more robust, cheaper to manufacture, and more sustainable over the long run," said Morris.
"The concept is completely different from a traditional rail gun design and yet we were able to consistently accelerate aluminum slugs to speeds greater than 1 km/sec," continued Morris. "We still have a number of major design hurdles to overcome, which big Navy is working on, but the big push to get this figured out will save the Navy lots of money in the long run."
Morris says much of the advancements in rail gun technology can be traced to former physics faculty member, Maier, who served as lead researcher, and one of his former students.
"We spent years working on various rail gun related projects, and we have had more than 50 thesis students working through the years on the program," said Morris. "Most importantly, a student critical in kick starting the big Navy rail gun program got his start with NPS."
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